The weather outside is frightful and the temperature inside is delightful … but landlords have a range of issues to consider to ensure their rental properties are prepared for the winter weather and that, subsequently, their tenants are comfortable and safe.
1. Ensure the heat is set to the minimum required by law.
In Ontario, the temperatures are set under municipal bylaws, and the minimum required temperature is 21°C from September 1 to June 15, according to the Landlord and Tenant Board. If the landlord is not meeting these minimums, the tenant can register a complaint with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
2. Check for ice dams on the roof.
Lee Strauss, an investor based in Kitchener, says that it is in a landlord’s best interest to drive by the property, or have a property manager drive by the property, to ensure there are no ice dams on the roof.
He adds: “This is usually a sign of an insulation issue in the roof and can cause many costly issues.”
3. Check exhaust vents for issues.
Landlords should be checking the exhaust vents on the furnace at this time of year. “When the furnace is running it will exhaust warm air,” explains Strauss. “When this mixes with the frigid winter air, a build-up of ice can happen to the point where the exhaust vent gets plugged. Typically if this happens it will cause the furnace to stop working.”
If the furnace does have a problem and continues to operate, it would fill the house with deadly carbon dioxide (CO2), which leads us to the next point.
4. Ensure there is a CO2 detector in every unit.
A new regulation took effect in October 2014, which updated Ontario’s Fire Code. All homes with fuel-burning appliances, such as stoves, fireplaces and furnaces, as well as attached garages, are now required by law to have CO2 detectors.
“I change the batteries and check the smoke detectors and CO2 detectors every time the clocks change back or forward,” adds Strauss, who is a firefighter by day. “I have a form that my tenants and I both sign, and we each get a copy. It covers both parties in the event of an issue.”
5. Take care of snow and ice removal.
According to the Landlord and Tenant Board, it is the landlord’s responsibility to keep up the housing and maintenance standards at a residential property, and failure to clear the snow could be a breach of municipal safety, housing or maintenance standards.
“If the snow and ice on a sidewalk, for example, is not removed it could be considered a breach of municipal safety,” adds Strauss. “If an injury was to occur, it would fall on the responsibility of the owner.
"The tenant can be responsible for the removal of snow, but it only takes one time that they don't and someone gets hurt. This is an instance where the owner or property manager should be driving by often to ensure the snow and ice has been removed.”
Lee Strauss will be speaking in the Editor’s Room at Toronto’s InvestorForum, which will be held at The International Centre on March 28 and 29, 2015.
Find out more about the event and register for the InvestorForum here